House rabbits are extremely popular these days, with many families enjoying and appreciating the inquisitive and social characters of these wonderful pets. Bringing them into the home does come with some risks though, and one of the regular complaints we see is the damage to furniture, walls and carpets from chewing.
Posted: 26 June 2018
It’s important to know what advice can you offer your clients to help. In this article we review some of the problems and make some suggestions to alleviate the problem
In the wild, rabbits will spend much of their time eating grass and moving about their patch. Housed rabbits on the other hand will usually have all their food provided in one easy location, requiring no effort to seek and chew. As a result they’ll have a lot more free time, and there is a tendency to become bored and develop some antisocial habits.
When a ‘house rabbit’ is first brought into the home, they can be allowed access to the home but only under strict supervision. If they can’t be supervised they should be returned to a safe indoor enclosure. With time, the areas where supervised access is allowed and the period of time can be increased and the level of supervision may be reduced.
Destructive behaviour generally reflects a level of boredom and an inability to satisfy a behavioural need. We therefore need to provide high levels of physical, nutritional and social enrichment and stimulation to reduce the thresholds for boredom.
Physical enrichment involves making the environment appealing and safe and allowing it to perform all of its natural behaviours. For rabbits, this includes digging, tunneling, grazing and chewing. In the home, this can be achieved in a number of ways;
Healthy food treats can be used as opportunities for foraging to stimulate mental activity and increase exercise. This can be as simple as;
When discussing this with your clients it’s important to warn them not to overfeed. Unless they reduce the daily feed accordingly there is a risk of obesity when overfeeding treats.
A rabbit living in an environment that offers high levels of enrichment is less likely to develop destructive behaviours. Enrichment can be applied to social interactions, the manner in which food is obtained and by play.